To Angoulême by Train - Stress-free Cycling the French Countryside - CycleBlaze

September 7, 2019

To Angoulême by Train

Yesterday was a day of sorting and packing – making some last-minute decisions about items to bring on the bike and what to leave in Paris. My biggest decision was off-bike shoes – I finally opted for the somewhat bulkier but still lightweight Allbirds that I had been wearing almost non-stop since my foot went numb. No sense in flirting with more foot issues. Decisions taken and panniers packed, Vivien George, Vincent and I were out the door and on our way to Gare Montparnesse by 9:30 this morning. We had a reservation on the TGV from Gare Montparnesse to Angoulême, the starting point for our journey through the French countryside.

Gare Montparnasse has installed new security gates where you must scan your ticket before entering the train platforms. I was a tad anxious as the gate openings appeared too narrow to accommodate the bike and panniers. However, all was good. Even better, the bike car was the old-fashioned type where the bike is leaned upright against the seats and secured with a strap. No lifting the bike onto hooks - yeah!! All was secure when another cyclist got on with her bike, and her dog.  A little bit of rearranging and we were on our way. Nattine was headed to Bordeaux from whence she would cycle to Sète along the Canal de Deux Mers. There was a nice handlebar basket on her bike for her dog Yanouk – she told me it even has a cover in the case of rain.

Vivien George is content to ride the train, but is anxious to start cycling - as am I
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Yanouk also looks ready for another cycle trip
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Angoulême sits on a plateau overlooking the Charente River. I had booked a hotel near the train station, down the hill from the old city.  After checking in, I made my way up the hill for lunch and a little exploration. The historic part of Angoulême is encircled by ramparts, and my walk along the walls took me past a variety historic monuments as well as provided a good overlook of the surrounding Charente region. The ramparts are also the site of the upcoming Circuit des Ramparts, where classic automobiles race along the twisting, narrow roads. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the race, and banners honoring previous winners were strung above the many small passageways of the old city.

Looking northeast from the ramparts of Angoulême
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View to the south and Charente River
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Along the ramparts
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Darn - just a week too early
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Salute to previous champions of the Circuit of the Ramparts
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Angoulême is also noteworthy for comics. The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the third largest in the world, and the city has a Comic Strip Museum. Comics are found throughout the city, on walls, windows, mailboxes – almost anywhere. There is even a tourist trail where one can see up to 20 walls painted by Angoulême muralists. My attempts to find the murals were for naught, despite having a map showing their location. I kept getting hopelessly lost and/or was blind to the obvious. Eventually I gave up and found a nice spot by the Hôtel de Ville for a late afternoon rest watching children at play – one of my favorite activities – before heading back down to the hotel. Nearby dinner options were limited so I opted for the friendly kabob shop, enjoying the 5€ meal of kabob, fries and drink in the presence of local folk and their children. It was a “Cheers” kind of place, where everyone knew your name – and though they didn’t know mine, they still made me feel like a regular.

One of the wall murals I actually found - but only by chance
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"The Daughter of the Ramparts" mural, which I found after a protracted search
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Comic characters are found almost everwhere in Angoulême, including the street corners....
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...on mailboxes
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....in storefront windows
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...and on the roof of the train station.
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A tranquil spot for a late afternoon break from mural hunting
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At play at the Hôtel de Ville
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Tomorrow I start cycling. Best give up on the bad WiFi and post tomorrow – I need some sleep.

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